And so – at the top of the rankings – we’ve ended up about where we started, with Adelaide and Sydney once again clearly ahead of the rest. The Crows and the Swans put some distance between themselves and the other top teams this week, with the Crows destroying Port Adelaide, and the Swans easily beating Geelong on the road.
Over the next few weeks, as we approach the end of the home-and-away season, I’m going to give a summary of how each team’s ranking points developed through 2017. This week I’ll look at the first six clubs in alphabetical order, which are Adelaide to Fremantle. You can see their ranking points for each round in the graph below.
Adelaide Crows: Adelaide has held the top ranking for most of 2017. Once the rounds got under way the Crows only surrendered the top spot in Round 8, following successive beltings by North Melbourne, and Melbourne at home. That may have been the correction that revealed the Crows’ true level of ability, because they have stayed around the 20-25 ranking points mark for most of the time since. Still the Crows are considered by many to have the best chance of winning the premiership this year. They have been a very good – although not dominant – side throughout the season.
Brisbane Lions: Brisbane has been clearly the AFL’s worst team so far in 2017, and has been on the bottom of the rankings for the entire season to date. But having both Adelaide and Brisbane in the graph this week helps illustrate one of the major themes for 2017: the teams became more even. The Lions have improved from being relatively awful to merely relatively bad over the course of the season. Their improvement picked up the most steam over the second half of the season, particularly with their big win against Fremantle in Round 12.
Carlton and Fremantle: These teams followed similar paths in 2017, with both being rated below average across 2017. Fremantle had some observers fooled that it may contend for finals earlier this year following a few close wins, but the Dockers’ mammoth losses against Port Adelaide and Adelaide should have had the alarm bells ringing. Carlton has steadily improved for much of the year – with its biggest improvement in ranking points coming after it beat the GWS Giants – but the Blues have similarly never really threatened to reach even an ‘average’ status.
Collingwood: Speaking of ‘average’ Collingwood has been consistently average to below average for the majority of 2017. Their performances from week to week have generally been reliably average, albeit with varying results. The Magpies slipped a few weeks back after getting comfortably beaten by Hawthorn and Essendon, but have since regained some ground with a win against West Coast, a draw against Adelaide, and a win by a big margin against North Melbourne.
Essendon: Obviously the big improvers of 2017. That was not a surprise, given that the Bombers regained several senior players from year-long suspensions. What was perhaps a surprise was how much they improved. The Bombers rose up well past their 2015 form to a level that resembled more their early-2013 performances. Young players like Zach Merrett and Joe Daniher are clearly better than they were a couple of years ago, and combining them with the returning veterans has resulted in a solid football team. For a stretch in the middle of the season there they were even an elite one.